Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds Quick Review: Noise-Cancelling Bliss
November 25, 2019 Andrew Cheng

Wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation aren’t particularly common in the market now. In fact, besides the Sony WF-1000XM3 we have here, the only other notable alternative is the Apple AirPods Pro, which also costs quite a bit more at RM1,099.

That, in turn, makes the WF-1000XM3 particularly interesting. It is not priced exorbitantly at RM949, the active noise cancellation is good, and most importantly, it has very, very long battery life. If you want a pair of compact wireless earbuds that can drown out the outside world, consider the WF-1000XM3.

What It Is

The WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds succeed the WF-1000X, which had its fair share of shortcomings. Compared to its predecessor, the XM3 brings a number of notable improvements. For one, it promises much, much longer battery life. Sony claims that these earbuds can return up to eight hours of usage on a single charge; six hours with noise-cancellation switched on.

On top of that, the charging case can also fully recharge the WF-1000XM3 three times. Effectively, you’re getting up to 32 hours of play time with this pair of wireless earbuds. It’s a very impressive battery life, and throughout my time with the earbuds, I didn’t need to charge the case at all.

Aside from that, the connection strength of the WF-1000XM3 has been improved accordingly too. See, each earbud establishes its own connection to a paired device, so you can even use only one earbud while the other is charging in the case. It’s a neat little feature.

Of course, the most important feature of the WF-1000XM3 is the addition of active noise cancellation – I’ll elaborate more on this particular aspect in the next section.

The Good Stuff

If there’s one reason to get the WF-1000XM3, it would be for the performance of the active noise cancellation, which is excellent for earbuds this compact. I’ve used it primarily in the office to help me focus, and it can drown out ambient noise really well. This is especially the case with low frequency noise.

That being said, the active noise cancellation is not perfect. It doesn’t totally isolate the outside world, but it certainly does once I’ve started playing some songs. I didn’t need to crank up the volume either to enjoy this level of isolation, so the risk of damaging my hearing in the long run is reduced.

Audio quality of the WF-1000XM3 is very good too. Now, I’m not much of an audiophile, and as far as I can tell, they sound just fine. To give the XM3 a fairer assessment, I passed the earbuds around to my more perceptive colleagues to try out.

So what did they say? Well, the WF-1000XM3 has reasonably good audio quality for the money. It has punchy bass (but not particularly detailed), the mids are average, and the highs are not piercing. All in all, perfectly acceptable audio quality for a pair of wireless earbuds in this price range.

Battery life of the WF-1000XM3 is excellent as well. I didn’t quite manage to hit Sony’s quoted battery life, but I was comfortably getting well over four to five hours of listening time with active noise cancellation activated on a single charge. This isn’t too far off from Sony’s six-hour estimate.

As for connection quality, I had absolutely no issue with connection dropouts throughout my time with the WF-1000XM3. While it’s a little jarring for the two earbuds to connect independently to my paired phone, they are perfectly in sync once they are connected.

Oh, I also love the fact that the WF-1000XM3 pauses the music when I take off just one of the earbuds. This is especially useful when I need to talk to someone at a moment’s notice. Alternatively, I can also just tap and hold on the left sensor to activate ambient sound.

The Bad Stuff

Speaking of which, the sensors on the WF-1000XM3 have rather limited controls. While I can tap on the right sensor to pause, skip, or go back a track – and toggle between ambient sound and noise-cancellation with the left one – there is absolutely no way to control the volume. Instead, I’ll need to reach out for my phone to lower or increase the volume. It’s not the end of the world, but it is an annoyance if my phone is not within reach.

Update, 28 November: Sony pushed a new firmware update to add volume controls to the WF-1000XM3! You can now tap on the left or right sensor to increase the volume, and tap and hold to lower the volume.

And then there’s the fact that the WF-1000XM3 doesn’t have sweat or water resistance, so you won’t be able to use it when you’re out for a run or sweating it out in the gym. Well, you can, but there’s no guarantee it won’t break. It’s a big omission, especially for a pair of wireless earbuds at this price point.

Besides that, there…isn’t much to complain about the WF-1000XM3. If I were to nitpick though, I wish the charging case was more portable. It’s a little bit too bulky to fit into my jeans pocket comfortably.

Is It Worth It?

For RM949, the Sony WF-1000XM3 is a decent buy. I’d argue the official pricing is a little bit steep, so thankfully enough, its market price has dropped quite a bit since it was introduced in Malaysia. Right now, you can easily get this pair of wireless earbuds for only RM899.

At this price point, the WF-1000XM3 is that much more attractive. Not only is it one of few wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (a very good one, at that), it is also long-lasting with good audio quality. Sure, it would’ve been great if it had sweat and water resistance, but other positives of the WF-1000XM3 more than make up for this absence.